CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Wednesday that the upcoming NATO summit will not only be good for Chicago, but historic as well.
For several days now, Chicagoans have been getting a taste of what to expect during the summit, from parking restrictions and road closures, to a series of protest marches and other anti-NATO demonstrations.
But with preparations for the summit now nearly complete, there’s a question many people are asking: is it all worth it?
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CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine took that question to the mayor and several local global affairs experts, and got differing views.
Emanuel said Chicagoans should embrace the historic nature of the work world leaders and NATO ministers will accomplish during the summit. He pointed out NATO will be deciding details of the withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan, and he predicted the agreement will be known as the “Chicago Accords.”
“Inside McCormick Place, NATO will be now deciding how to de-emphasize its involvement, its footprint in Afghanistan; and how to wind down its presence. It will be known as the Chicago Accords, basically,” Emanuel said.
The mayor also said Chicago should embrace the opportunity to showcase the city to world leaders.
“A lot of world leaders … have never been to Chicago. It’ll be the first time. Their foreign ministers haven’t been here. They get to New York or D.C., and that’s their experience of America,” Emanuel said. “They’re going to see the most American of American cities.”
Asked why the average Chicago resident, who is inconvenienced by the summit, should care about what happens there, University of Chicago professor Marvin Zonis said, “my advice is not to care too much.”
Some do. Others don’t.
“Is NATO important to me? It’s not important to me, personally. It’s important to the city of Chicago, it’s important to [President Barack] Obama,” one man said while walking through downtown Chicago on Wednesday.
“I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth,” another man said.
“You need allies,” one woman said, referring to the war in Afghanistan, which is finally winding down.
The goal of the NATO summit will be to reaffirm a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“One of the president’s goals in the Chicago summit is to keep that alliance together. In together, out together,” said Rachel Bronson, vice president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Among other items on the agenda will be how to get member nations to pay their fair share, recruiting new partners, and a controversial missile defense shield in Europe — which reminds us why NATO was formed in the first place.
“In the good old days, when there was a Cold war, we were worried about a Soviet invasion of Europe. NATO was the organization to preserve democracy and capitalism in Western Europe,” Zonis said. “With that gone, NATO has been searching for a mission and they haven’t found it.”
Bronson said, “We run public opinion studies, and Americans want multilateral engagement.”
In other words, they want other nations involved in international conflicts, they don’t want us to be the sole peacekeeper for the world.
“We won’t always go in with NATO, but when we do, it is easier,” Bronson said.
NATO’s mission has clearly evolved from its Cold War days; now focusing on protection from al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and tyrants like Muammar Qaddafi.
That is why the whole world will be watching during the summit, and if all goes well both inside and outside McCormick Place, the one-word answer to the question of whether the event is worth it will be: yes.